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The power of a reason in a Negotiation

A while ago, I sold a sewing machine on eBay. It was old and didn't 100% work so the listing price was a low $15. Given how the low the price was, I was pretty offended when I had a message from a buyer offering to buy it for $10. I mean seriously! What happened next though was a good bit of negotiation from my potential purchaser.

After I politely rejected the offer (it was only 2 days until the auction ended so I told them I'd consider their offer if it didn't sell) the buyer came back with an increased offer of $12. They also, very wisely, provided an explanation for their offer – “I fix up vintage machines to teach kids sewing, this sounds like a cam problem, and parts unavailable so straight stitch ok. Have to travel 160kms for this one - hence my cheeky offer..”.

Sewing Machine

Not only did this reason change my attitude to them – I was no longer offended by their offer – but, knowing why they wanted to pay a low amount changed my behaviour too. I replied by saying that I would leave the auction open but if it didn’t sell I was prepared to give them the machine for free.

If the stakes were higher, I wouldn't have taken the buyer's word that what they said was true. I would have sought objective verification. For a $15 machine, I was prepared to take the risk that they were lying.

In your negotiations, my advice would be to would be to give the explanation up front with the original offer. We know the human brain is primed to seek reasons for doing things (see the famous Photocopier study by Ellen Langer) so by just giving a reason for your offer, you increase the chance that it will be accepted. It's easier for someone to say yes the first time than to change from a no to a yes.

Not only that, but by providing a logical reason for an offer that is below what the other party considers to be reasonable, you are able to mitigate any damage to the relationship.

Of course, when you are receiving an offer rather than just rejecting the offer, asking “what is the basis for that offer?” is a good way to move someone away from an unreasonable offer.

For more information about how to negotiate effectively, or for assistance with your next negotiation, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion.

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